PechaKucha presentation

Flora presenting at ConnectingHRI’ve written about the ConnectingHR unconference in my previous blog post.  In the run up to the event, one of the things I was excited and anxious about was doing a PechaKucha presentation.  I had volunteered to do this, so it was my damn fault.  Anyhow, it turned out to be a worthwhile experience.

Rewind.  I need to explain about PechaKuchas (PK for short).  So, PKs are a format of presenting in time to a slide deck that is pre-set at 20 slides which autoforward every 20 seconds.  It started with a bunch of architects in Japan and grew virally across the globe into a movement. People get together for PK nights, kind of like an open mic comedy or poetry evening.  Read more about it, and find a PK night near you on the official PK website.

PKs were included within the ConnectingHR unconference because they are a great way of keeping talking at people to a minimum, and make more space for the conversations afterwards.

My talk was billed as being about how social media has been useful for my own development and in my job role as an L&D manager.  Here it is:

I learned a number of things from the experience:

1) Make the content fit the format

This is the same with any presentation, but it is particularly important for a PK.  Beforehand, I found a few helpful blog posts, and one bit of advice I took on was to limit my key points to only 1 or 2.  So I wrote a short list of things I wanted to say, and edited it down to two key points. These were Ken Robinson’s take on tribes, and about the ‘red bull’, supercharging effect of social media.

2) Plan it on post its

Planning a presentation using post its

Several years ago I came across the books of professional presenters/presentation designers Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte.  From them I learnt the importance of ditching the pc/laptop at the start and planning the structure of any presentation using pieces of a5 paper or post its.  This gives the opportunity to work out ‘chapter heading slides’ and also to quickly swap about the running order.  Whilst this is a habit I have found useful for normal Powerpoint/Keynote or even Prezi’s, I found it to be especially important for the PK.

3) Use filler slides

I had a few slides which were simply illustrations of something I’d said during a previous slide. This gave me reassurance that if I did lose the plot in terms of my timing, I had an opportunity to catch up during these slides. Also it stops the audience from being battered by a tsunami of ideas and content.

4) Practice

Every website I looked at said that it is vital to practice.  And the very wise Sukhvinder Pabial tweeted several times advising me to practice.  I was a bit strapped for time. So what I did was to practice whilst I was doing things like getting dressed, or driving. Also, I recorded myself – just on audio only, using that little Audio Recorder app on my phone. That way, I was able to play it back as preparation, whilst eating breakfast!   The practicing was definitely necessary, for me anyway. The first timed run through I did was 9 minutes long!  (It should be 6 mins 40 secs).

5) Thank you for the support!

I couldn’t have had a more supportive audience.  I had so many encouraging comments and tweets, especially during and after doing the PK.  Thank you everyone – you put a big smile on my face.

Final thoughts

I think that PKs are a good format for keeping presentations concise, and for forcing presenters to examine the messages and amount of content that they are trying to convey. They also encourage the presenter to practice. It certainly made me realise that I don’t normally practice enough for conventional presentations.  I still can’t pronounce PechaKucha though.

Resources and links

23 thoughts on “PechaKucha presentation

  1. Enjoyed listening to and watching your PK Flora. I liked the sharpness of it all and think that it is excellent discipline for people who have poor control over content, delivery and timing in presentations. I did feel slightly stressed for you as I watched the countdown on each slide (!) but I was very impressed with how seamless it all appeared. One for me to try in the future, thanks for the inspiration!

    • You felt stressed, imagine how I felt !:-)
      Actually, I think that its one of those things that once done once, it’ll be loads more fun and easier in the future. It definitely helped having the most supportive audience ever. Ooops – I forgot to write about that! Need to do a quick edit right now…

  2. Hi Flora, I really enjoyed hearing your reflections on the day, and enjoyed it again just now just as much! Thanks for sharing your experience and offering up this guidance.

      • Ahhh, I see. Well I agree that there are other ways to involve an audience – in fact, I don’t think that PKs would be my method of choice for involving an audience. But for quick fire delivery of a few thoughts, they are useful. However, I wouldn’t want a world where this was the only method.

        I did find that the method didn’t constrain me to all topics having equal weight. In fact, I actually cheated at one point – towards the end I use the same slide twice (with a small change), and this enabled me to speak for twice as long with the same background slide. Some slides are merely illustrations of a previous point. I mean, they are only slides after all – just visual accompaniments to the words that I spoke.

        Thanks for the book btw Peter…I am absorbing it and will tweet about it later.

  3. I’ve never seen or done a PK, but I share Peters point above. The best presenters are not rigid, they are happy to take the presentation where the audiance want to go. That takes a lot of confidence and knowledge, and thats a rare mix to find together.
    If I was in argumentative mood, I might say that PK is to presenting what 20:20 is to cricket. None of the subtlety of the real thing.

    • Oooh you argumentative bunch 🙂 Still that is why I wanted to blog – I wanted to learn from other views and have a conversation.
      My take on it: it’s just one technique, there’s loads out there, it’s fun to have a mixture. And I would also say, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

      • It was never my intention to knock it. Just to prod it a little and see how much it wobbled.
        To be honest, I’m not sure I have the discipline for PK. Do your slides have to have anything to do with your words?

    • I see where you’re coming from Richard (and Peter), but I’d say myself that there is room for PK styles of presentation if it is right for the occasion.

      I was at the event that Flora presented at and the PK format worked well because we (the audience) were able to get a host of ideas communicated to us, in a short time frame, from several different presenters. In the same way that twitter can force you to think about what you are trying to say, because you have only 140 characters, this format was very punchy and I think it met the needs on the day. Maybe it worked well because all of the presenters were very confident and accomplished and didn’t let the format restrict their creativity and ability to connect with the audience. There were songs and prerecorded youtube amongst the PK contributions, and all of the speakers were engaging.

      • hey, I’m liking the ‘very confident and accomplished’ 🙂 Thanks for commenting John.
        (nb I have lost the link to your personal blog…can you tweet it to me)

      • I think there’s very little evidence to show that people think about what they are trying to say on twitter 😉
        I’d be interested in peoples views as to whether PK is a better introduction to speaking than the traditional format. My initial thought was yes (it’s shorter so more people are likely to do it), but I think I think no now. If you talk for half an hour, any fool can say at least one thing of interest; it seems much harder to do in 6 minutes.

  4. Having listened to 5 pecha kuchas at this week’s Thomson Reuters unconference for project managers what really struck me about them as a presentation vehicle was their distinctive rhythm. My expectation was that a 20 slides x 20 seconds format would result in an overall feeling of ‘sameness’ but in fact it was the complete opposite.

    Like a sonnet, the pecha kucha form did not constrain the thought. In fact, like a sonnet the format seemed liberating, positively encouraging a diversity of ideas. And that got me thinking about how we need to pay much more attention to rhythm as an important component of any presentation, of how the metrical ‘pulse’ of a presentation conveys meaning and can help or hinder an audience’s reception of new, difficult or challenging ideas.

    Someone I expect it would be almost impossible for them to stick to the ‘beat’ of a pecha kucha is Bill Clinton. His ‘rhythm’ is at the opposite end of the presentation spectrum, more akin to a jazz riff in which he takes an idea and improves it through improvisation and embellishment. To get an insight into how he does that so effectively, read this New Yorker blog posting http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/09/bill-clinton-conversations-with-a-teleprompter.html on his recent speech at the Democratic party’s National Convention.

    • Rhythm in presentations. Makes a lot of sense. We spend so long – too long – thinking only about the in preparing for presentations. Thinking about rhythm, the emotional ups and downs, the story and pattern….is definitely helpful in delivering a more impactful experience for the listener.
      Hope the TR Unconference went well!

      • It was very energising, and the pecha kuchas certainly helped ‘seed’ some very lively & engaged discussions in the breakout World Cafe sessions, which Doug did a superb job of facilitating. My impression was also backed up by some survey data & feedback that we collected from participants after the unconference which rated all of the pecha kuchas highly.

  5. This has opened my eyes to PK’s. As someone that rambles a lot when delivering presentations I love the practise and think that as long as you use the structure rather than allowing it to structure you it would be really useful. I wish the PK’s had been used by some of my lecturers at University as I am sure it would have moved some topics into livley debate at pace. Thanks

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